Connect 4 – on paper!

I wanted to bring the game Connect Four to work, but then realized I don’t actually own the game. I forgot to go buy it, and now I was stuck with no game and a game time coming up. Solution? Print a game board on paper, and draw it using X’s and O’s as the pieces. Works great!

I imagine this will be useful to have on hand as a “travel” version of the game, with no pieces to drop and lose.

Connect 4

Here’s a downloadable PDF of the game board I drew, with 2 printed per sheet. If you wanted even smaller boards to save paper, you could print multiple copies of the PDF on one page.

Three Little Birds

Singing’ don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

This post is somewhat a response to my other recent post, Real Talk.

Way back in 2012, when I was feeling really conflicted about my career and life in general, I made my way to my first Austin Ukulele Society meeting. I didn’t really want to go… I didn’t know anyone that would be there, I felt like I had other things to do with my time, but I got myself out the door and to the meeting. The very first thing that happened was we sang Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. I could have cried from the happiness/relief that singing that one simple song gave me. Seriously; everything will be alright. It’s so easy to get hung up on the things that are bringing you down, and this song helps me let go of that and just be happy in the moment.

When I saw my doctor last, things were looking slightly better than they had been, but still a long way to go. She extended my leave from work by another couple weeks. I had mixed feelings about the outcome, because I know while it’s good to be making progress, I feel like it will take going back to work to be really back on track. When I got in my car to leave, this song started playing (on 101x; particularly odd). I smiled and drove home. When I got there, I turned on Amy’s Baby Einstein Pandora station, and this song came on again! I really felt like it was a sign to chill out, breathe, and take things as they come. It will be alright.

Yesterday I got a call from my insurance that after weeks of going back and forth, they finally approved my disability claim. Tonight I was able to take Amy for her evening walk, the first exercise I’ve had in a long time. Also, Amy has been sleeping in her crib for almost a week, and I haven’t died of sleep deprivation like I feared. Finally, I have kept this tiny human alive for 4 months next week. Here’s to many more.

DIY – Caulking Large Gaps

In both of our houses, we have had the need to caulk a large gap. One was a poorly installed countertop, the other a tub. In one case the wall was bowed, causing one or more spots to be larger than the rest.

If you try to just fill these gaps with silicone caulk, there’s nothing for it to grab on to, and as it dries it caves in. So what do you do about it?

Turns out there’s a magic solution called a backer rod. It’s a soft foam tube in various sizes that you cut and stuff into the gaps (1/4 inch down) so you can caulk on top of it.


Tub gap with old caulk removed, and with backer rod inserted

br2Now you can cover gaps to you heart’s content! (awaiting cleanup)


Real Talk

Ok, I need to vent. It isn’t an angry rant like you might expect. I don’t have PPD; Amy is amazing and I love her so much. I haven’t really posted about this publicly until now, maybe because birth struggles are still a bit taboo; probably more because of the rosy glow to life that social media encourages/spawns and I don’t want to be a Debbie downer or look like I’m asking for sympathy.

So, what on earth is this about. Apologies now to the TMI or squeamish crowd; here’s the backstory. Amy was born really fast, especially for a first baby. I wasn’t even dilated when we went to the hospital; wasn’t having contractions; we went in one night because I was having some bleeding all day and called a nurse before going to bed to see if it could wait until my 9am appointment. She said since I was already a week past due, I should go in and have it checked out. So, we grabbed our bags on a Wednesday night in case we ended up staying, and I felt bad for ruining Mark’s sleep on a work night. Contractions started while we were in the triage room, around 2am. Amy was in my arms 6 hours later, no pitocin or anything. She decided it was go time and came out all at once, so I had to be stitched up pretty good. All normal.

6 week checkup for me, and it still isn’t healing quite right. “It has to heal from the inside out,” so it will take time. 8 weeks. 10 weeks. At 12 weeks I was supposed to return to work, and my doctor said I should probably extend my leave. There was a pretty big gap where the stitches didn’t take, and it just stopped making progress. She ended up calling me a few days later, and told me that I needed to have surgery. An episiotomy revision.

Just hearing the word episiotomy is enough to make you cringe, but doing it this far after delivery really surprised me. She expected to just cut out and restitch the part that hadn’t healed, which would be about 3 weeks of recovery. As much as I really, REALLY didn’t want to have surgery, if this 12 week battle with no end in sight could actually be done with in 3 more weeks, it seemed worth it. So, I had the surgery.

When she got in there, she realized there was more to repair than she thought, and ended up having to redo the entire thing. Two birth recoveries for one baby.  Except this time it was worse. At 2 weeks after the surgery, I still couldn’t sit in a waiting room or dining room chair. I’ve spent all of my time on the couch. My mother-in-law had planned to be doing day care for us when I returned to work, so she has been coming over during the day to help with Amy since I can’t really bend over, sit on the floor, etc.

If you’re still with me, we have arrived at the point of this post. Now I’m at 3 weeks post surgery, and writing this post on my phone while lying in bed. I am on Facebook about 18 hours a day. I just want to be a MOM, I’m so tired of being a patient. I want to be able to play with my baby, to take her out of the house when she’s fussy, to go to the library or swimming or just walk around a park. I know she won’t have memories of any of this, but I will, and I feel like I’ve missed out on the best part of her new little life; soon (assuming I ever heal) I will be back at work and won’t have had a chance to spend quality time with her, outside of nursing.

I know this is super hard on Mark as well; he comes home from work and has to take over taking care of both me and Amy.  He was trying to do some work at home the other day and Amy was fussy on her play mat. He got frustrated because he couldn’t concentrate. He said something like “I used to be able to come home and get something done.” I wanted to say, “Was that before you had a kid, or before your wife had surgery?” but I just didn’t say anything because that wouldn’t be productive.

I cry a lot. I know it isn’t unusual for new moms, and as I said when I started out the post I don’t think I’m dealing with depression, more like oppression. I’m so tired of being held back from my baby. I’m so tired of being stuck at home because it still hurts to sit in a car. Even if I went somewhere, it hurts to walk around so I don’t, in case it would make this recovery last even longer. I want to be able to EXERCISE again. Even just evening walks with Amy would be a delight.

To anyone that hasn’t had kids yet and is afraid of tearing/an episiotomy, honestly don’t be. What happened to me is super rare, and it wasn’t that bad the first time. You are so distracted with figuring out what to do with a baby that your recovery is a side note.

To anyone who has had to be restitched, solidarity. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I feel like I’ve failed at being a mom, a wife, an employee, a person. I see my doctor again in a few days, but all I expect to hear is “it looks about the same”. Ugghhhhhhhh.  I don’t even remember what it was like to not hurt all the time. Here’s to week 16.

Oh good. Just got a call from insurance that my request to extend my short-term disability claim was denied because it wasn’t medically substantiated; that an episiotomy revision recovery should take 3 days. F You very much.

Bringing Home Baby – What You Need and What You Don’t

Well, as with many other blogs I’ve read, I’ve been a mom for 3 months now so clearly I know what I’m talking about (eye roll). I do, however, have a good idea of what helped us survive those first 3 months since it’s fresh on my brain, and what things you can probably pass on for your registry. I have not received any compensation for the products mentioned below; these just happen to be the ones we have and like.

Must Haves

  1. Rock-n-Play (Fisher Price) – When people ask us what is the one baby item we couldn’t live without, this is it. She has slept in this every night so far. We are starting to transition her to her crib for naps, but at night, she still sleeps for a good long stretch in this thing. It isn’t only for sleeping, either. Any time you need your hands free to do anything, you can pop her in this. It’s light and small enough you can haul it around the house with you, and it collapses for easy travel. On hard floors, you can tap your foot on the bottom rail to rock a newborn to sleep hands-free. Killer. Get one. We didn’t get the auto-rocking one; the vibrate function is enough to use every now and then to soothe her, and rocking her with our foot when needed was sufficient. You can rock it on carpet, but you have to work a bit harder at it. It won’t rock itself back like it does on hard floors, but you can prop something under it like a stuffed animal leg and it will rock a bit easier.
  2. SwaddleMe Swaddles – This probably ties for most important item. You will learn with practice how to wrap a baby in a flat swaddle blanket, but they will eventually fight their way out of them and leave you worried about them covering their face in their sleep. These velcro sleep pods are magic. Strap her arms down straight against her sides, and poof, baby cocoon/burrito. Ours still sleeps in one every night, and for many naps if she’s too fussy to fall asleep on her own. I wish we had one of these starting in the hospital! Get several of the small size; by the time they are big enough for the large, they will probably be rolling over and you won’t get to use them.
  3. Car Seat (Chicco KeyFit 30) – Ok, this one probably makes the list of the ONLY thing you need for your baby, since you can’t leave the hospital without one. This model has been great for us; you can get an additional base to have one in both cars so you can just snap the bucket in and out instantly. There are so many options for car seats that I won’t pretend to be an expert; I just know this one is the one I see around the most, and for the price, it has been perfect. I also have a pretty small compact car, and this fits behind the passenger seat. I do basically leave my passenger seat all the way forward, to make it easier to take the bucket in and out. If you need to have front seat passengers frequently and have a very small car, do some research on what will work for you.
  4. Stroller with rugged wheels (Baby Jogger Citi Mini GT) – We walk Amy a lot. Either because it’s good exercise during my recovery, or because she stops crying when we go outside (usually for both reasons), this one has been essential. This one doesn’t collapse very easily, so we don’t really take it away from home (but you could if you needed to.) The rugged wheels on this one are completely necessary for all the sidewalk and road bumps for the miles we’ve put on ours. There is an adapter to allow our infant bucket to clip on. Baby Jogger is just the brand, this model isn’t intended for jogging. If you do want a jogger, I’ve heard BOB is a good one. Also, if you want to walk a baby in the summer (especially in the evenings) I recommend this stroller fan.
  5. Diaper Genie Essentials – I did pretty exhaustive research on which diaper pail I wanted to get. There are a ton of different options, but if you plan to use disposable diapers, this stripped down pail is a winner. From reviews I read, this one rated highest on “odor control,” which to me seems like the only important thing.
  6. Baby Swing (Fisher Price) – We use ours every day still. The music on this one is actually not obnoxious, and the mobile/mirror on it keep her soothed as she falls asleep for a nap.
  7. Baby Monitor (Summer Infant Baby Zoom Wi-Fi) – You could use any baby monitor, or even something like a drop cam, but we really like this one. It has colored lights that indicate sound if you have the screen and volume off, good battery life, and it’s really convenient. I admittedly haven’t really used the Wi-fi part. The monitor itself has buttons that let you control the pan and zoom of the camera, and it has the option for two-way audio.
  8. Car Mirror (Brica Magical Firefly) – We have one of these in both of our cars. It’s really nice to be able to see her in the rear-view mirror while she’s rear-facing, and it has a remote that turns on lights and music, which (sometimes) helps her stop fussing, especially at night.
  9. Sound Machine (Sharper Image Sound Soother) – This exact model may be hard to track down, since we got it several years ago. I like that the sound quality is actually decent. We tried the Skip Hop Owl (because it was cute) but it sounded terrible so we returned it. White noise or ocean sounds are soothing to babies and also block other noises in the house. For on-the-go white noise, this travel size (Homedics) one is good.
  10. Wubbanub pacifier – Ours loves this giraffe; she can chew on the horns or legs to help self-soothe even if she can’t get the pacifier end in her mouth on her own.
  11. Burp Cloths – Any kind, but you want a ton of them. In arm’s reach. At all times.
  12. Happiest Baby on the Block DVD – If you’re new to babies, this DVD shows you some really helpful tricks to soothe a crying baby, once you’ve exhausted the short list of diaper, food, and sleep. Babies cry. This helps explain why, and what to do about it. Watch it before you go to the hospital!


For this section, I’ve added some things that have really helped us out, but don’t qualify as must-haves.

  1. Collapsible Stroller (Chicco Liteway Plus) – Since our main stroller is listed in the section above, this one falls as a nice-to-have. This one collapses really quickly and easily, and is fairly light. It’s still larger than “umbrella” strollers, but this one allows for our infant bucket to clip on (without an adapter), which makes it necessary for now. When I go to the grocery store I usually put her whole bucket in the cart, rather than dealing with pushing a stroller and a cart. But, for shopping somewhere without a cart, or for restaurants that don’t have car seat slings, this one is great.
  2. Mamaroo – This one falls down here, because if you already have a swing, this one is just an alternative. Also, some babies love them, and some can’t stand them. Since it’s on the pricier side, I’d wait to buy one until I could try her in one and see how she takes to it. I know people that swear by these, and we have found it useful when she doesn’t want to be in the other swing.
  3. Activity Gym (Infantino) – After your baby is about 1 month old, they will really enjoy batting at these toys. We have acquired lots of toys with rings that can clip on, so we have ones that jingle or vibrate in addition to the ones it comes with. This has been part of our daily routine, until she has started rolling over.
  4. Owlet – This one is really neat; it’s like a hospital pulse/oxygen monitor that straps onto her foot, and a base station with an alarm if her vitals drop. The risk of SIDS is scary at any time, but especially for a new mom. During her first couple weeks, this gave me the peace of mind to go sleep in my bed with her in the other room, knowing I would hear the alarm over the monitor if something happened. Even when I did sleep in the same room as her, I could look up and see that the monitor was green and not get out of bed to check that she is actually breathing (new moms… you know it’s true.) This is a new product, so it isn’t perfect; and I had a false vitals alarm once when it wasn’t strapped on her foot tightly enough (there is a different alarm that happens if it just falls off, but it’s very secure unless she’s kicking like crazy). It doesn’t work when she’s in a swing, and it isn’t intended for co-sleeping. And it isn’t cheap. Mark doesn’t think it was worth it, but I stand by it. I plan to start using it again when she starts sleeping in her crib and can roll over. If you want to splurge and are a worrier, this may be a good option for you.
  5. Bath Tub (Fisher Price) – This one is nice because it has an infant sling that you can remove once they’re old enough to sit up. Speaking of bath time…
  6. Bath Kneeler (BackJoy) – I actually tried every bath kneeler on the floor of Buy Buy Baby when I was 9 months pregnant (needed help getting up haha) and this one was hands-down the best.

Don’t Need

I’m sure I’ll offend someone in this section, if their favorite thing appears down here. Well, these are the things we have been perfectly happy without. If you want to get them anyway, go for it.

Changing Table – We ended up getting a dresser at IKEA (be sure you anchor it to the wall!) and put a changing pad on the top. No need for a single purpose changing table. She’ll be able to continue using this dresser once she’s dressing herself.

Bassinet – This also falls into the category of single-use furniture that’s unnecessary, if you use a Rock-n-Play for sleeping. You also don’t need the bassinet attachment for a Pack-n-Play, since the Rock-n-Play travels so easily.

Bottle Warmer – We got one of these, and haven’t used it once. You want to avoid over-heating the milk to keep all the good stuff in there; that’s why you don’t warm up bottles in the microwave, they warm unevenly and could cook it. What we always do is just warm it up under luke-warm water in the sink. Reviews for bottle warmers say they can potentially heat unevenly, so since we’ve been fine without it, we haven’t risked it.

Baby Laundry Detergent – The Free & Clear version of standard laundry detergent works fine for baby clothes. Only babies with severe skin sensitivities would have an issue with Free & Clear detergent. Fabric softener is not recommended for baby clothes, though.

Car Seat Accessories – We got a couple of the car seat upholstery protectors (that go under the car seat), and ended up returning them. Most car seat manufacturers say putting anything in the seat not made by the manufacturer, or between the seat and the car voids the warranty, and are unsafe (can cause the seat to not get a tight enough grip). While I’m sure 99.99% of the time it would be completely fine, we ended up deciding being safe is more important than not scuffing our car’s upholstery. Once she starts eating, there will be far worse damage anyway, I fear.

So that concludes my recommendations for 0 – 3 months! What newborn items could you not live without?